World on the brink

In Chile, for months now, massive protests against social inequality have continued without pause, The government was humiliated and had to cancel two important international meetings – the  Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit of lraders and the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change. Under pressure, the government of President Sebastian Piniera had to withdraw the neoliberal economic measures that ignited the unrest and have now agreed to amend its Constitution that institutionalized such a neoliberal approach for Chile’s economic development. That approach has been credited with enabling economic stability in Chile but it has not succeeded in overcoming economic inequality in the country. Chile now has an opportunity to address this and my hope is that this will also give us in the Philippines ideas on how to also overcome our own social inequality.

In Brazil, bad things are happening. The Amazon is endangered; indigenous peoples, especially the uncontacted tribes and peoples, are  threatened with extinction. But hope is in the air.

Last week, Lula da Silva, its former president, was ordered released by the Supreme Courut of Brazil pending final judgment in the corruption cases against him. While a procedural decision, it was precipitated by the discovery of emails between the Judge in the corruption cases, now the Justice Secretary in the Bolsonaro government, and the prosecutors where the former is coaching the latter.

The da Silva scandal reminds is of what recently retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has described as “ the grossest injustice” in our country: the detention of Senator Leila De Lima without any legal basis and absent any evidence that implicate her in the crimes they have charged her with. Many of the trial judges assigned to her case have retired or recused themselves and that I suspect is because they know they would have to acquit her or ordered her released but that would come at great cost to their career.

De Lima would  have been illegally detained for one thousand days next Wednesday. It is time to release her.

In Bolivia, Evo Morales, the first indigenous person to become president of that country, has been ousted and forced to resign when the country’s armed forces withdrew its support for the government. This was precipated by protests against his government for alleged cheating in its presidential elections.

Morales was not allowed to run in that election under the Bolivian constitution and his attempt to lift term limits was rejected in a referendum. But he ran just the same after the Bolivian Supreme Court allowed him to do so in the guise of a bogus and absurd argument that term limits is a violation of human rights. As expected, rightist and fascist forces took advantage of this insistence of Morales to perpetuate himself in power.

The result is Morales, who should have retired in glory earlier this year, is now in exile and Bolivia is in chaos with Morales’ supporters pushing back against the right.

Lessons learned for the Philippines: (1) charter change or a Supreme Court jurisprudence should not be undertaken to favor an individual  (2) do not defy the will of the people especially on term limits;  (3) the right (or left) and other countries like the United States will exploit opportunities when  politicians make mistake.

In the United States, President Donald Trump has recklessly conflated his own personal and political interest with that of the national interest of the country. As a result, because of his illegal actions on Ukraine, impeachment hearings are now underway in the House of Representatives.

I predict Trump will be impeached before Christmas, only the third such vote in the 233 years history of the United States. Most likely, the two thirds vote in the Senate to remove Trump would not be reached but there will be consequences for that in the 2020 elections.

From the Trump presidency, the lesson: things eventually catch up with reckless politicians. Impunity is not forever.

The United Kingdom is supposed to have its elections. The conservatives led by Boris  Johnson are expected to win but that was also predicted by the polls in the last election when Theresa May lost her majority. The elections is supposed to decide the Brexit issue once and for all. But some doubt if it will do that.

A divided country is not good. Politicians, if they are true leaders, must work for consensus and not lead society to further discord.

In Lebanon, faced also with the similar protests as in Chile and Bolivia. Prime Minister Saad Hariri righthly resigned and now the country’s leaders are working hard to find a political path forward that will not lead its factions to another civil war.

This brings me to Hong Kong.  The possibility of civil war or an invasion by China is increasing by the day. My heart and mind is with the students of Hong Kong, as it is with the youth activists of the Philippines. Whatever happens, I will be in solidarity with them.

The Philippines is also on the brink. We await a decision by the International Criminal Court on bringing charges against Duterte and his cohorts for crimes against humanity even as a dynamic Vice President Leni Roberedo has quickly taken steps to change for the better the way the war against illegal drugs is being conducted. The police and the military, guided by extremely bad intelligence, is attacking everyone ironically in implementing a whole of nation approach to the insurgency. Marawi is very tense because of the total failure of the government to rehabilitate it.  Metro Manila is paralyzed by traffic and no solutions are in sight.

Next year, the Philippines will commemorate fifty years since that great historical moment called the First Quarter Storm when the young showed us the way. What is in store for us?


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